Crystal Palace

By Ekai Ungson

DISCLAIMER: Card Captor Sakura copyright CLAMP and other related enterprises. Characters used without permission.

NOTES: This fic approaches lemony-type stuff. I will not be responsible for any trauma inflicted on little children who happen into this fic (it's CCS, for God's sake, there's gotta be a few kids reading this!). There's no actual graphic sex, but there's a lot of it implied (implied, she says) so I think I'm rating it PG13.

For Ciircee and Chelle-san. I can only hope to be as good as they are, not only in writing, but as wonderful people as well. I can only thank them for lending me light.

The bar itself is noisy, filled with the sound of worn music, glasses clinking, slurred voices, useless noise. The smell of old smoke and cheap liquor permeated the place, sweat and a hint of blood. Something you'd expect to find in the outskirts of towns, a place where shady characters would be expected to hang around in, bikers, struggling businessmen, cheap women.

She sat in a corner stool, both arms on the bar cradling a shot glass in her fingers. Her hair fell in strands about her face and shoulders, waiting, wanting to be tucked back in place, her clothes moist from the humidity. Her skin glowed still in the garish neon against the dim. She looked like something to the effect of a picture, something like a perfect tragedy.

She waved the bartender over, held up her empty glass. The man poured her another shot of vodka and left her in peace, as he should. The look in his eyes was that of a jaded cynic's: I have seen and heard everything the world has to offer just by working this place.

The jukebox in the corner began to play "Achy Breaky Heart" in a broken sort of tone. He stepped forward.

"I think that's enough, Tomoyo-san," he said in her ear.

She stiffened for a second, but only just a second—the alcohol had blurred her senses enough for her to be just a tad incoherent. "Well, if it isn't you, Eriol-san," she whispered in a silky, if slurred, tone. She swiveled, nearly fell if he hadn't caught her. "Come to be my knight in shining armor, then?"

"Let's take you home, Tomoyo-san," he said firmly, clutching her arm and trying to get her to cooperate.

Her knees had the consistency of jelly. But her resolve was hard as iron. "Lemme go, I don't want to go yet. Lemme go dammit Hiiragizawa—who do you think you are?" she muttered.

He set her back down on the stool, steadied her before sitting down next to her. His gaze settled on her fingers, long and delicate, wrapped around the shot glass (Vodka, he noted idly) as if she were holding on for dear life.

"Do you want any?" she asked politely, looking at him from fringed lashes.

He shook his head. "What I want is to get out of this place. Why are you doing this, Tomoyo-san?"

"So go," she said, ignoring the question. "No one's forcing you to stay."

"Not without you," he said.

She smiled, but the smile was fake. She took a sip from the glass, set it back down. "Eriol-san, why are you here?"

"To take you home," he said.

"My white knight," she said fondly. "My great white knight, come to save me from the world, come to save me from myself. Why are you here, Eriol-san?"

He repeated the statement.

She downed the glass, set it down. She did not ask for another shot. Instead, she looked at him, as if she were studying him, as if she were trying to see straight through him.

"If it'll make you happy, then," she said finally, holding out her hand.

*

She sat in the front seat beside him, her hair blowing out his open window. She stared out and saw nothing at all, she closed her eyes and there was not much difference than if she opened them.

He began to turn into the highway, but he felt a hand on his wrist and saw hers lying there.

"Turn back, Eriol-san," she said softly, and he followed what she said, though he scarce understood why.

In her drunken state, she managed to lead him through late-night-early-morning traffic, into winding side roads and back out to the open highway. He wove in and out of streets at her direction.

He found himself suddenly on a road leading steadily upward.

"Take a left," she said, and he did, and his car found itself on a jutting cliff overlooking Tomoeda, set against the stars.

He parked the car, and she opened the door, stepped out. He watched her, half-bewildered, half-fascinated, as she tried to walk—his will couldn't take it, he was out of the car and at her side in seconds.

She steadied herself against him, fingers clutching at his shirt, maybe not because she wanted to, but because she had to. He held her up, steadied her against the car door. She looked into his eyes.

In a moment of hard lucidity, she stared at him, at him and his dark hair and the shadows on his pale face set against the night sky. His eyes were the same color of the horizon, with the same very small pinpricks of light, with the same endlessness.

She traced the side of his face with her fingers, didn't know she was killing him. His skin was warm to her cold hands. "Eriol, my white knight. Now that you have no need to save to world, you come to save me," she said softly. "Am I that pathetic?"

He shook his head. "You're not pathetic, Tomoyo-san," he said.

She smiled sadly. "I'm not?"

He shook his head again.

"I could have fooled myself," she said. Then she locked her hands behind his head and lowered it down to her.

Her lips tasted of vodka and smelled of night lilies, and he didn't know what else to do but kiss her back because he wanted to and she wanted him to. His hands traced her skin and followed trails of fire. She smelled of smoke and sweat and flowers and the night.

Her hands were under his shirt and he didn't mind, no, he didn't care whether the harsh wind touched his back as long as she was holding him. He felt like flying, dying, maybe. Knew this was wrong somehow. And it didn't matter.

There was something to be said for two souls who are lonely.

*

He lay with his back on the grass beside her, their clothes scattered around them. It was still dark out, but he knew that if they didn't move soon the sun would find them there. He didn't want to move. He didn't care.

He stared at her, all black hair, pale skin, blue-violet eyes turned to the stars. He then noticed the change in them—when only a few hours ago her eyes held a manic sort of jubilation, they were now filled with an empty sort of curiosity, as if she was wondering what to do next.

"Eriol," she began. "Why did you follow me tonight?"

"Why do you keep asking the same question?"

She looked away, busying her fingers with a stray blade of grass. "Most people only usually come to me to ask something from me."

He looked at her. "Is that what you think?"

"Isn't that what it is?"

He didn't answer.

"I give, I give, and I keep giving," she said in a weak tone. "I think I've gotten to a point in my life where I've been completely drained—saturated of everything I could give out as I was able to.

"And I'm tired, Eriol-san. I'm just so tired of giving up my whole world just so other people can have theirs. Sakura-chan needed a crutch and she found one in me. Mother needed a dutiful daughter she could live her dreams in. Everyone wanted sensible, responsible, sweet, understanding Tomoyo to always be around to catch people when they're falling. Even you, Eriol-san. You needed me to be weak so that Sakura-chan would grow strong.

"And now all of you have left me. Sakura-chan has Li-kun and you have Mizuki-san and Touya-senpai has Yukito-senpai. Hell, even Kero-chan has Spinel-san. And me? I have nothing left. I have nothing left because I've been drained of everything I could have been.

"You asked me why I was drinking, back in the pub. I can tell you frankly that yes, I am messing up my life. Or what's left of it. I'm running away, Eriol-san, I'm running away and I'm leaving all of you behind to wonder about it: why goody-goody Tomoyo-san has suddenly turned coat. Nobody expected it from her.

"Nobody knows me, Eriol-san. Least of all you, you who ran after me tonight, you who followed me. My white knight. You can't save me from myself," she finished in a sing-song voice. "You can't save me from myself…"

With that said she stood up, gathered her clothes and put them back on. The picture she made was heartbreaking. He followed her lead, picking up his shirt from the ground. He put it on, pondering the words she had just delivered.

I keep giving, nobody knows me, you can't save me from myself, you can't save me from myself, you can't save me…

Her voice broke into his thoughts. "Let's go back, Eriol-san."

He straightened his shirt then looked at her. "Wait."

She looked at him, confused. Wait for what?

He gave her a smile that never reached his heart. "There was once a time I would have given you the world, Tomoyo-san. There was once a time when everything you said to me was law and everything you did for me, a privilege.

"There was once a time I would have died for you, Princess, a time when I would have killed for you. A time when all of me was surrendered to what you were, and your bidding were the only wishes I had.

"And do you know what you did, Tomoyo-san? You threw it away."

He said nothing more after that, only entered the car and waited for her as she stood outside, visibly stunned. A few moments later, she got on the car, turned to him. "Eriol—"

"I love you, if that's what you're asking. I always have and I figure I always will," he said as he turned the key. The engine roared to life. "I love you in a way that is above Kaho, above Sakura, above my guardians, above family. I love you that way."

She turned to the windshield with unseeing eyes as Eriol turned the car and sped down the cliff road, back to town. No words were said in the whole duration of the trip.

He maneuvered easily inside and out of Tomoeda's streets, and soon he was parking the car at the gates of the Daidouji mansion.

He looked up at the crystal palace she lived in, thoroughly fragile, easily broken, easily penetrated and torn. It wasn't a wonder she would somehow turn out the way she did, because princesses would long for a life outside diamond walls, if she could. Far from chains of ice and ropes of silver.

He stiffened, then, when he felt her head rest on his shoulder, the warm, heavy weight startling him out of metaphoric reverie, bringing him back to reality. Tomoyo was no dainty princess, no ordinary rebelling child—but she was only human.

"Take me away, Eriol-san," she sang. "Take me far away from here."

He started the engine again. Her command was his only wish.

-- The End?

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This piece is dedicated to Chelle-san and Ciircee, who I hope like it in spite of the generally useless angst and the shoddy dialogue. .